CDM | Centre for Disaster Management (Haryana Institute of Public Administration)



As the world is making rapid advancements in the field of industrialization, there are huge chemicals plants – dealing with all kinds of chemicals. Some of these chemical plants deal with seemingly simple (non-hazardous) chemicals, while, some other chemicals could be dealing with hazardous materials.

Risks associated with chemicals and chemical industries include:

  • Risks due to blast of certain equipments involved in large chemical plants, e.g. boiler etc.
  • Risks due to leakage of chemicals wherever they are stored/transported/used in small quantities etc.

Sometimes, seemingly harmless chemicals can also turn out to be hazardous, after they come in contact with other chemicals.

Depending upon the toxicity of the material involved, the most common kinds of problems that might be caused due to a chemical leak/plant accident might include:

  • Blast and explosion
  • Irritation to eyes, throats etc.
  • Pollution and/or poisoning of air, water-bodies etc.
  • Impact on vegetation and animals (including fishes in water-bodies)
  • Difficulty in breathing etc.
  • Fumes
  • Heat and/or fire etc.
  • Usually, chemical plants employ certain bare minimum safety measures. The amount of safety measures employed by chemical plants is a function of:

    • Risk and hazard associated with the specific chemical plants
    • Local laws and regulations
    • Vigilance level of local community
    • Technical competence of the plant managers
    • The company’s own standard of ethics –vs- short-term profitability decisions etc.
    • However, the places where there are practically no safety measures include:

      • While transportation. More often than not, most truck drivers have no knowledge of what they might be carrying, the detailed chemical property of the material they are carrying, the reactivity of their cargo with other elements etc. Hence, if an untoward incident happens during the transportation of chemicals, there might not be anybody with a good knowledge of what is to be done.
      • Places where the chemicals might be stored, e.g. trading godowns etc. Again, in such cases, it is quite likely that the traders dealing in these chemicals might not be aware of the reactivity of these chemicals with other agents.
      • Thus, if an accident involving chemicals occurs during transportation etc., its best to stay away – unless, you are very clear as to what is the material involved, and, its specific properties – as well as how to mitigate the situation.

Do's and Don't
The preparedness for people around large chemical plants and storage facilities should include:
  • Be aware as to what are the kind of chemicals being used/produced/stored/handled at the facility
  • Besides knowing the names of these various chemicals, the people should also learn, the toxicity level of these chemicals, their important properties, including reactivity with other chemicals found/used/stored in the nearby areas
  • Be aware of the various processes/machines etc. involved which could create a blast/explosion etc.
  • Installing a mechanism for alerting, when something goes wrong. This is for the factory to alert the local community that something has gone wrong. This could be as simple as siren based system
  • Installing a mechanism for the community to be able to alert the factory staff, in case they notice something going wrong (e.g. unusual discharge from chimney and/or any other kind of liquid/gaseous vent/outlet etc.). This could be as simple as the phone nos. for the important factory department being available easily with many people in the community.

Emergency kit
  • Geiger Counter/Radiation detector: Whether it’s an old-school Geiger counter or a NukAlert system, you need something that tells you where it’s safe
  • Dosimeters: These devices will keep track of just how much radiation you’ve been exposed to
  • Thyrosafe: These potassium iodide tablets will keep your thyroid gland safe from radiation
  • Radioactive masks: You’ll need masks specifically designed to protect from radiation, not those masks that guard against the flu
  • Safe food and water, and containment: Any survival kit you purchase for nuclear purposes will probably have some food bars and safely packaged food, but you also need to make sure that you have safe containers for food and water around your shelter
  • Water filter: You can never be too safe during nuclear fallout. Make sure you have a filtration system for your drinking water
  • Plastic and tape: You may need to quarantine yourself in a location. Plastic will keep the basic fallout particles out